Mid-Century Modern House Tour

Explore the timeless aesthetic of an influential architectural movement

Saturday, September 24th 2016
Tour 1pm – 5pm, Reception 5pm – 7pm

Thank you for your interest in the Mid-Century Modern House Tour. Please check back for details on the 2017 tour.

Join us each year to explore the iconic West Coast architectural approach to Mid-Century Modernism. Mid-Century Modernism embraces clean lines, raw materials and a close relationship with nature. In Vancouver we enjoy a specific adaptation in “West Coast Modernism” which made use of our abundant local natural resources and incredible landscape. The September 2016 tour of five residences included the Friedman Residence. Designed by Fred Lasserre in 1953 for Dr. Sydney and Dr Constance Friedman, this split-level home was  designed for a triangular lot near UBC. After Dr Sydney Friedman’s death, UBC put the estate-donated residence up for sale in 2016 and many were concerned the home would be demolished. Fortunately, a couple passionate about the design era bought the home and invested in its long term future. Landscape Architect, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander was brought back to revitalize the landscape which remained intact since her design work in 1953.

VHF interviewed Cornelia Hahn Oberlander about working collaboratively with Lasserre on the original Friedman Residence. View the interview here

Also on the tour were two examples of later Mid-Century Modernism in a 1982 Dalla Lana-Griffin designed home and a 1986 Bing Thom. Ray Griffin and Fred Dalla-Lana are representative of a second wave of architects who took over where earlier Modernists left off. Mentored by Arthur Erickson and Barry Downs, Griffin and Dalla-Lana designed homes that echoed many of Erickson’s design aesthetics. Their 80’s tour home illustrates the evolution of Mid-Century Modernism into post-modern design, and how Modernism continues to influence contemporary architecture.

Each year the house tour is followed by a wine and cheese reception with a speaker exploring aspects of the architectural movement. We hope you will join us in 2017.

Are you interested in taking a VHF house tour but not sure what to expect? Read our First Timer’s Guide to House Tours here.

Do you or someone you know live in a house that may be a good fit for a tour? We are continually searching for great examples of heritage, character, mid-century modern design, and renovated Vancouver Specials to open on tours. If you would like to know more, or have your home considered for inclusion on a future tour, contact us 604 264 9642 or by email.

The Wong Residence Update:

_MG_8157 low resOpen on the 2014 tour, the Cambie corridor Wong Residence just south of Queen Elizabeth Park is a lovely Mid-Century Modern home designed by Henry Lee who worked for Duncan McNab. Built for the parents of known philanthropist and businessman Milton Wong, the home has been passed down through three generations of the Wong Family. The home has heritage value for its association to Milton Wong, as well as its architecture. It also benefits from landscape design by internationally renowned landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, who has been responsible for several projects around Vancouver including Robson Square. The Wong House was her second commission in Vancouver and still features all the original design elements. The only change to her original plan is a carp pond that replaced a patch of lawn.

The Wong House was purchased by Pennyfarthing Homes who will incorporate the home into a large new housing development. The project will designate the home, maintain it as a single-family residence adjacent to a new multi-story building, and retain much of the original landscaping. 

In 2015 we visited a number of remarkable buildings, including the renovated B.C. Electric Building, now The Electra. This award-winning structure was one of the first Modernist buildings in Vancouver and is recognized across Canada for its innovative design. Originally the head office of B.C. Electric, which became B.C. Hydro, the building was converted into condos in the 1990s. VHF wrote about this building and its influential design for Spacing Vancouver. Check out the articles here on post war era buildings and post war idealism.

We also explored examples of the influential Mid-Century Modernist style such as the remarkable 1962 Danto Residence designed by Arthur Erickson,  enjoyed the rare opportunity to see inside Arthur Erickson's own home and garden and compared the expansive commissioned work indicative of Erickson's famed style with the relatively modest home he lived in himself. We also saw some inventive work that explored the design characteristics that are hallmarks of the movement. 

"Less is More", the phrase coined by the German designer Mies van der Rohe, aptly describes the Modern Movement that began in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. Modernist designs were without historical precedent, they used and exposed new materials and technologies, and they conformed to new social ideals of embracing the outdoors, open plan living and functional design.

Vancouver developed an adaptation of the modern aesthetic known as West Coast Regional Style. Local designers used post-and-beam construction, stepped flat roofs with clerestory windows and wide expanses of glass that connected interiors with nature and natural light.

Professional Development Credits: The Mid-Century Modern Tour qualifies for 4.0 Non-Core LUs granted by the Architectural Institute of British Columbia. All other organizations are self reporting.

Mid-Century Modern Articles

A Lesson in Zoned Architectural Protection from Ottawa - Globe and Mail

At 93, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander is still one of Canada's most beloved landscape architects - Globe and Mail


Check out previous Mid-Century Modern tour brochures here: